TNSM deputy and spokesman killed in Taliban ambush


TNSM spokesman Ameer Izzat Khan, who was arrested late last week, was killed during a Taliban ambush as he was being transported to Peshawar.

Two senior leaders of a Taliban front group were killed during an ambush as they were being transported to Peshawar.

The Taliban conducted an ambush on a military convoy near the town of Sakhakot in the Malakand district as it was transporting senior leaders of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed’s Law].

Muhammad Alam, the deputy leader of the TNSM, and spokesman Ameer Izzat Khan were killed along with a Pakistani soldier; five soldiers were reported wounded. No Taliban were reported killed in the ambush.

The Taliban appear to have laid the ambush in an effort to free Alam and Izzat, as well as Maulana Said Wahab, a member of the group’s ruling shura, or council, a Pakistani security official told The Long War Journal. There is no word on the status of Wahab. The three senior leaders were detained in Lower Dir on June 4. The government flatly denied reports that TNSM leader Sufi Mohammed and two of his sons were also detained.

“Clearly they [the Taliban] knew when and where to attack, and carefully sprung their trap to free the men,” the official said. “I have no doubt they have insider information on our movements.”

Sufi Mohammed and the TNSM are responsible for the failed peace agreement under which the Pakistani government ceded control of a large swath of northwestern Pakistan to the Taliban, but which resulted ultimately in the ongoing military operation that has displaced more than 2 million people.

The Taliban are still capable of conducting organized attacks outside of the battle zone of Swat, Dir and Buner, where the military is conducting an operation to flush out the Taliban and restore its writ.

The military has failed to block the Taliban retreat from Swat, as too few security forces have been assigned to that aspect of the operation. Some Taliban units have eluded the military operation and established bases in the neighboring districts of Malakand, Mardan, Haripur, Mansehra, Shangla, Swabi, and Battagram. Others have melted away with the more than 2.4 million internally displaced persons who have fled the battlefield.

Sakhakot is on highway N45, just south of the district headquarters of Malakand, and south of Swat and Dir. The attack took place in a region where the mountainous Hindu Kush gives way to the plains of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The ambush is the second against a police convoy outside the war zone in two days. Yesterday the Taliban ambushed a police convoy in the neighboring district of Mardan. The Taliban lured police into a kill zone after false reports of an attack in the district.

Six policemen and a Frontier Corps trooper were killed after the Taliban set up a complex ambush in a mountainous region of the district. The Taliban opened fire on the security forces patrol from the hilltops. During the three-hour gunfight, one Taliban fighter was killed and another was captured.

Taliban keep up attacks on security forces in major Pakistani cities

The Taliban continue to target Pakistan’s security forces despite the operation in Swat. In Islamabad, a Taliban suicide bomber failed in an attempt to strike at the Rescue 15 police building in the city. The bomber detonated his vest after being stopped at the back entrance to the building. Two policemen and the suicide bomber were killed and four people were wounded in the attack.

The Rescue 15 building in Lahore was also a target of an attack on May 27. The building was leveled and 16 policemen and seven intelligence officials from the Inter-Service Intelligence agency were killed in the coordinated, complex assault that included gunmen and a suicide car bomb.

Last month, security forces captured a senior Taliban commander thought to be coordinating suicide attacks in Islamabad. The leader, known as Fidaullah, was arrested on May 27 along with Shah Abdul Aziz, a former member of parliament. The arrests took place outside the home of Maulana Abdullah Aziz, the former leader of the Red Mosque who was released from prison in mid-April on $2,500 bail.

Fidaullah is a senior leader of the Ghazi Force, which operates in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Ghazi Force is commanded by a leader known as Hilal. It is based in Arakzai and runs a terror training camp in Guljo in Hangu.

The Ghazi Force is named after Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, the brother of Maulana Abdullah Aziz. Ghazi was killed when Pakistani troops assaulted the Red Mosque in July 2007. The group is thought to be behind the two recent suicide attacks against security forces in the capital of Islamabad: the April 4 suicide attack at Frontier Constabulary camp that killed eight paramilitary policemen, and the March 23 suicide attack outside a police Special Branch office that killed one officer.

Taliban also continue to target security forces in tribal areas

In South Waziristan, five paramilitary Frontier Corps troopers and two others were killed in two separate IED attacks. The Taliban have been attacking military personnel in North and South Waziristan. The two largest incidents occurred on May 21 and June 1.

The May 31 assault on a Frontier Corps camp by forces loyal to Baitullah Mehsud resulted in the deaths of dozens of Taliban and seven troopers. The next day, the three senior Taliban leaders in North and South Waziristan conspired to kidnap scores of cadets and staff from the Ramzak Cadet College. The cadets and staff were later released after negotiations.

The military and the government quickly squashed reports of a military operation against the Taliban in Waziristan, despite repeated attacks from the Taliban in the region.

Map of the Sakhakot region

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Peter says:

    Hmm. “Accidental discharge” by a Pakistani officer?

  • gandalf says:

    Dead men tell no tales. MFU (Maulana Fazl Ullah) ordered the hit of his father-in-law’s (Sufi Mohammad) closest advisers to silence them. They were not arrested by the Pakis, they asked for protection from MFU’s Taliban who had been threatening them. The truck carrying the two was in a convoy and was blown up by an IED as it drove along. MFU’s Taliban knew exactly what vehicle to hit, very precise. Probably carried out by MFU’s Turkmen, they are the best at this kind of radio controlled IED.

    A father of five, Alam, 50, led the TNSM for seven years when Sufi Mohammad was jailed for violating border laws. The soft-spoken scholar was known for his non-violent positions and for his role along with Sufi Mohammad in brokering a peace deal in February between the government and Taliban to end violence in Swat.

    When MFU went around their backs and invaded Buner and collapsed the entire agreement, followers of Sufi Mohammad broke ranks and began cooperating with the Pakis. That’s what facilitated all this.

    MFU is in Paktia, Afghanistan with his best commanders. The Swat Taliban will continue the fight by small unit and snipers.

    BTW, they along with Sufi Mohammad were living openly in Bilal Masjid (a madrassa) on the Mingora-Batkhela Road in the Amandara village of Malakand during the entire offensive and were well known to the PakMil. “Arresting” them now could only be for their own protection.

    While MFU consolidates his power, tactically, from a strategic point this is a big gamble, openly attacking the “old school” power structure of Sufi Mohammad.

  • Glenmore says:

    Any chance this ambush was a ‘hit’ and not an attempt to free the men?

  • This seems more like a “HIT” and not a botched attempt to save these men.
    Curiously the “Good Taliban” are now getting eliminated.

  • Geographer says:

    These sort of bumping offs are tooo common in Pakistan’s history. My recommendation is to take the long view; see what happens with the Internally Displaced People in Pakistan, how the resettlement goes, and then see how the civil administration comes along in Malakand.
    The Army is staying there for the long term.
    Bill, you should say something about the Internally Displaced People. The Pak Govt displaced 3.5 million people to make the Americans happy.
    BTW, again I woild recommend not getting too excited over this murder; these things are pretty common in Pakistan’s history.

  • Viliger says:

    Gandalf…Dead men tell no tales.
    Thats one helluva insightful and plausible tale–thanks! Still, one question, did the ISI have a hand in it? Would that explain the ambushers knowledge of the movement AND why no one in the ambush party was killed or captured?
    And friend Geographer: Blame, blame, blame…can’t you for once take some responsibility?
    And how about shame, don’t you feel any when you bite, even with words, the hand that feeds you?
    Did America tell you/Pakistan to sign peace deals with those thugs? It is pakistan’s lack of courage and governance that has created this situation. It is not entirely without precedent for those who know the history of what was East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

  • Spooky says:

    Could we not get into the blame game mess, please? All the players are equally at fault in this. Various reasons and actions, but in the end, no one is innocent except for the IDPs.


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